Dear Christian Brother or Sister,
We live in an highly individualistic and consumer culture. As Americans we celebrate ourselves to a fault. The perceived upside is we tend to get our way and even when we don’t, we vent about it on social media like toddlers who were just told they had to share their toys.
That’s the culture… it shouldn’t be you. Your first allegiance isn’t to yourself, it’s to the one who created you, sought you, and paid for your sins… You belong to Jesus (I Corinthians 6:19-20). If you pray as Jesus taught his disciples in the Model Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), you don’t ask for “My” will to be done, you ask God for HIS will to be done. That includes being willing for God’s will to be done in every aspect of your life. It’s a submission phrase. You are submitting yourself to God. It’s not about YOU, it’s about HIM.
What disturbs me is that there is talk going around these days that says, “I can worship God anywhere, I don’t need the church.” On the surface it sounds good. Our culture of individuality and consumerism would confirm this… But would JESUS?
Like all heresy there is a hint of truth to it. You CAN worship God anywhere. Jesus implied as much when talking to the Samaritan Woman (John 4:25). Paul and Silas sang songs and worshiped from prison (Acts 16:25). So there is plenty of precedent to say that the place of worship doesn’t matter as much as WHO you worship and maybe HOW you worship. Though to be clear in these instances it is not the consumer driven preference of the worshiper that determines the place of worship… It is the ability of the object of worship, GOD Himself, to transcend space (theologians call this omnipresence).
But would Jesus say, “YOU don’t need the church”? That is totally different than saying “GOD can be worshiped any where.” You see the real question is has he given you the freedom to choose to worship in isolation when there is a church available?
To be sure the church is the people, not the building. Perhaps that is where the hangup is for most people. If you were just saying you don’t need a building to worship, I totally agree. However, If you mean to say that you don’t need an accountable community of other believers to worship God the way He intends… I disagree. We were designed to come together in an accountable community known as the church.
I’m having a hard time finding an example of where we called to separate ourselves completely from the church according to our personal preference in the scripture. Christianity was never meant to be practiced in isolation. Even the early church sent missionaries out TWO at a time to establish churches. It is really difficult to honor the great commission in isolation (Matthew 28: 19-20). How do you exercise your spiritual gifts or function as part of the body of Christ without other believers present (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12)? Finally if you are a true believer, why would you not want to be part of something that Christ loves so deeply (Ephesians 5:25-31)?
This talk about worshiping God apart from the church really has me confused as to who you are actually worshiping? You might actually be worshiping nature instead of God, or travel ball, or TV, or Family, or a host of other things. I get it. I like those things too, but not enough to separate me from worshiping God with my local church. I need those people and according to 1 Corinthians 12 they need me too.
So if you’ve been using the excuse that “I can worship God from anywhere” as an opportunity to hit up the golf-course, the tree stand, or just sit in your undies and watch football on TV, you might want to ask yourself, “what god am I worshiping?”